The funding for the programs will be disbursed over a period of three years. The Norwalk Public Schools (NPS) will receive $50,000 annually for the next two years, and $35,000 in the third year. This information was stated by the district. The funds will be used for two specific purposes. Firstly, they will be utilized to build mental health supports during the summer, which will be provided by district school counselors and social workers. Secondly, the money will contribute to the development of a curriculum that focuses on social-emotional learning and workforce development. This curriculum will be integrated into everyday culture for students in grades 1-3 and 6-8.
Norwalk schools Superintendent Alexandra Estrella expressed gratitude for the grant funds, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing the social and emotional health of students. The grant will enable the district to continue providing mental health services during the summer months when they are most needed. This is especially crucial considering the findings of the 2022 Norwalk Youth Survey. The survey, conducted by Norwalk Positive Directions and Norwalk ACTS, revealed increased rates of sadness, depression, and suicidality among students in the district. Over 20 percent of high schoolers and middle schoolers reported feelings of sadness or hopelessness, with even higher rates observed among students in the Hispanic, female, and LGBTQ demographics. The survey also noted that 11 percent of NPS students in grades 7-12 had considered suicide and 6 percent had attempted suicide. While depression rates decreased from 2021 to 2022, the attempted suicide rate increased by 1.6 percent overall.
The finalization of the funding will require NPS officials to attend a training session and complete ARPA compliance documents. However, the program has widespread support from state officials, including Governor Ned Lamont. Lamont stressed the significance of providing mental health resources to students during the summer to ensure continuity of care. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that children’s mental health needs do not take a summer vacation and should be consistently met. Additionally, U.S. Representative Jim Himes highlighted the importance of the mental health funds in addressing the challenges that students have faced in the post-COVID-19 era. He expressed that the grants will allow critical care to extend throughout the summer months.